Final Oscar Picks 2018

It’s been a crazy year in every regard, but especially in awards season. There’s really been no consensus on the best movie of the year from the critics’ groups or guilds. That’s kind of exciting, but makes this guesswork particularly difficult. So here are my best guesses for the feature categories. There could still be a lot of surprises on Tuesday morning.

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
The Big Sick
Call Me by Your Name
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Dark Horse: I, Tonya
Long Shot: The Florida Project
Total Shock: Mudbound

The skinny: In all the years I’ve been taking a stab at this stuff, this is the oddest year I’ve ever encountered. There’s no true front-runner at this point. Sure, Lady Bird and The Shape of Water have critical adoration, but none of the precursors have formed anything resembling consensus. The only thing I can go by is recent trends, thus I’m settling on eight movies in the running. There are seven locks in my mind. The Big Sick got a big boost from SAG, so I think it gets that eighth slot. But the momentum among later releases seems to favor I, Tonya. Though if it gets a boost anywhere, it would be in the screenplay category. Many prognosticators still have faith in The Florida Project, despite zero love from any of the guilds (aside from Willem Dafoe’s performance). They’re basing that off the success of the similarly themed Beasts of the Southern Wild and Room, both of which earned both Best Picture and Best Director nods. I think The Florida Project is an all-or-nothing prospect: it gets neither or it gets both. Sadly, there’s still no room for Mudbound, Dee Rees’ criminally underseen family drama that’s just sitting there on Netflix. A few years ago, it would almost certainly be a frontrunner. And while it’s a shoo-in for an Adapted Screenplay nomination (and in play for supporting actress and cinematography), it should be getting showered with accolades.

Guillermo del Toro of The Shape of Water
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Dark Horse: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Long Shot: Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Total Shock: Darren Aronofsky, mother!

The skinny: As I mentioned above, if The Florida Project gets nominated for Best Picture, Sean Baker will also be nominated for Best Director. So who’s out? Probably Jordan Peele, sadly. But if there’s a third route, then that most likely leads to Italian director Luca Guadagnino picking up his first nomination. And while I would love to see the visions of past nominees Denis Villeneuve and Darren Aronofsky honored, there’s no chance of that happening.

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Tom Hanks, The Post
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Dark Horse: James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Long Shot: Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Total Shock: Robert Pattinson, Good Time

The skinny: Gary Oldman has this in the bag, so the bigger story is the rest of the nominees. I often thought James Franco would be on the outside looking in for his performance as Tommy Wiseau, and that was before the stories of sexual misconduct. Those may have hit too late to change any voters’ minds, but he’s still in contention. So it all comes down to which two-time winner will make it in: The Post is excellent but has lagged recently, yet far more people have seen it than Roman J. Israel, Esq., which was pretty bad but featured another great Denzel performance. I’d rather see another young actor get in: Robert Pattinson as the corroded soul of Good Time, and he’s magnificent.

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Dark Horse: Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Long Shot: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Total Shock: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

The skinny: Once again, it’s coming down to which living legend makes that fifth slot: Meryl Streep might undeservedly miss for only the second time in her career – yeah, I’m going to bat for The River Wild here – at the expense of Judi Dench reprising her role as Queen Victoria in Stephen Frears’ sequel to Mrs. Brown. Ordinarily, I’d roll my eyes at such a thing, but Dench crushes it as usual. There’s been a lot of support in recent weeks for Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game, but it may have come too late. Of course, I’m of the opinion that she should have been nominated at least three more times since she got robbed for Zero Dark Thirty. And while people have been clamoring for Wonder Woman to get something big since the summer, it’s not going to happen, though Gal Gadot’s star-making turn wouldn’t be the worst place to honor it.

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Dark Horse: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Long Shot: Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Total Shock: Tracy Letts, Lady Bird

The skinny: Well, this shaped up to be quite the race, huh? You could easily have four nominees from just two movies, but it may end up being more complicated than that. Dafoe and Rockwell are locks, and Harrelson probably is too. My hope is that Stuhlbarg and Hammer don’t split votes, since both are excellent (even if Hammer is almost certainly co-lead). But it’s possible neither gets in, which means that Christopher Plummer could wind up sneaking in. (I love Plummer, and haven’t seen the film, so that smacks of statement-making to me.) If anyone should benefit from such a scenario, it should be Tracy Letts, who’s almost as good as the two ladies of Lady Bird.

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Dark Horse: Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Long Shot: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Total Shock: Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

The skinny: Four of these ladies are definitely getting in, but it’s a toss-up for the fifth slot between Hong Chau (another strong performance in a reviled flop) and Mary J. Blige (a singer making a major dramatic debut, but in a movie too few people have probably seen). Ask me tomorrow and I’d probably flip it. Sadly, there’s no room for Lesley Manville, who’s icy perfection in Phantom Thread. And there’s definitely no way Tiffany Haddish’s star-making, fruit-fondling, crowd-spraying performance in Girls Trip gets nominated at this point either. I actually preferred Jada Pinkett Smith’s performance in the movie, but Haddish at the Oscars makes everything much more fun.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Dark Horse: I, Tonya
Long Shot: The Post
Total Shock: Wind River

The skinny: This category is absolutely brutal this year. You could make a solid slate out of any combination of at least 10 movies. But I think these are the five. I, Tonya and/or The Post could nudge their way in, since it will be close, but I don’t know how they’d knock out these five probable Best Picture nominees.

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name
The Beguiled
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly’s Game

Dark Horse: Logan
Long Shot: Wonder
Total Shock: Last Flag Flying

The skinny: Four of these have been decided for some time, but that fifth slot is wide open. I’m still sticking to my guns and picking The Beguiled, despite no awards love thus far. Logan would be the first comic book movie to get nominated, and I will be shocked if that finally happens. Wonder got surprisingly good reviews and robust box office, but it’s not really an Oscar movie. That last shot should go to Last Flag Flying, but that movie essentially vanished the second it was released. What a shame.

The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Dark Horse: Despicable Me 3
Long Shot: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Total Shock: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

The skinny: I’m probably going to stop tracking this category in the future, as I realize it’s been years since I’ve seen more than two nominees going into the awards broadcast. So let’s just say Coco is walking away with this. But with a change in voting – members of other branches can opt in to vote on this one – I’m expecting more popular films like The Boss Baby and The LEGO Batman Movie to get in at the expense of the more artsy fare this branch likes to stack this category with.

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
In the Fade (Germany)
Foxtrot (Israel)
Loveless (Russia)
The Wound (South Africa)

Chasing Coral
City of Ghosts
Strong Island

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Beauty and the Beast
The Greatest Showman
Murder on the Orient Express
Phantom Thread
Victoria & Abdul

Darkest Hour
I, Tonya

Blade Runner 2049
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water

“Mystery of Love” (Call Me by Your Name)
“Remember Me” (Coco)
“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” (Fifty Shades Darker)
“This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman)
“Stand Up for Something” (Marshall)

Multiple nominations:
13 – The Shape of Water
8 – Dunkirk
7 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
6 – Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour
5 – Blade Runner 2049; Get Out; Lady Bird
4 – The Post
3 – Baby Driver; The Big Sick; I, Tonya; Phantom Thread; Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2 – Beauty and the Beast; Coco; The Greatest Showman

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